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History and Culture

Home  >  History and Culture  >  Ancsa at 30  >  Lecture Series
Lecture Series, Number Three  -  Page 2
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Guy Martin
Guy Martin: Thank you very much, Tom, for having me. I guess the first thing to say is I’m very honored to be here. I’m going to give a brief kind of reintroduction, because I’ve been told it’s useful for those of you who are coming to this subject, sometimes for the first time, to get a sense of the perspective of those of us who worked on it at the time.

In my case, I’m a Coloradoan. I worked at the University of Colorado Law School. I was very interested in resources at the time, although I can’t say I knew anything about the Alaska Native Land Claims. My wife and I got married in 1967 and came to Alaska the very next day, and I believe at that time the driving force in our lives was not the environment, it wasn’t even the Vietnam War. It was civil rights. We were the generation in that period of the late 1950s and mid-1960s when all the civil rights strikes were taking place in the United States. When I was in law school, I was very deeply involved in something called the Law Students’ Civil Rights Research Council, and I spent my summers not at a law firm clerking, but either down south working with some things like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or in New York or Chicago working with legal services.

I know that the ethic of civil rights and social services is also what motivated John Shively and dozens of others to come to Alaska to work in VISTA or Alaska Legal Services. It’s important to think of that, because it was a very different time. We’ve gone through a series of trends in public service opportunities for people who are environmentally or otherwise liberally oriented or progressively oriented toward causes. I arrived in 1967, as Tom said. I taught at Alaska Methodist University. I have a couple of students in the room, aging students, and produced a lot of mixed results in the Alaska Legislature, as those of you who know me know, I became immediately involved here in the causes that had interested me in law school. I volunteered and quickly became a member of the Board of the Alaska Native Welcome Center, which at that time was the only sort of voluntary social service opportunity to deal with Natives who were arriving from the bush and didn’t have an acre here in Anchorage. I also helped organize the first Alaska ACLU Chapter. I think we were the last state without an America Civil Liberties Union chapter. I became cognizant of the land claims and learned a fair amount about it, enough so that when Nick Begich was elected to the Congress, he asked me to go back to Washington with him to work on the issue.

I will go back through it, but in the prior Congress there had been a significant attempt to pass a settlement act and it had ultimately failed. In early 1970, there was a feeling that the right circumstances would allow the passage of a settlement act, so I went with those expectations. I had never lived east of the Mississippi, and I did that for two years. During that time, all of us working together were successful in getting the settlement passed. I always felt like I was in Alaska and I really got to see a glimpse of the old Alaska, because oil had not been discovered in Prudhoe Bay when I arrived. In fact, all the talk at the time was that the oil industry was pulling out of Alaska, that this was it, that things would get better when they were out of here. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But oil was discovered. In the winter of 1967-1968, they discovered a well in Prudhoe Bay, and that, of course, as they say, changed everything.

We were successful in getting a settlement act passed during those two years when Nick Begich was in Congress along with Mike Gravel and Ted Stevens in the Senate. When that was done and the act was signed into law, Nick Begich, as you know, was lost in a light plane. At that point, with the settlement act in place, John Havelock, who is here today, was the attorney general of the State of Alaska. With the endorsement of Governor Bill Egan I opened an office to represent the State of Alaska in Washington for the upcoming debate on authorizing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. I did that for two years. At the end of those two years, the pipeline was authorized. I don’t mean to tie myself so directly to success in these things, but that was the period I lived through.

Following that, they had this remarkable election in Alaska history that made it into Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Every governor in Alaska’s history was involved in the election and Jay Hammond emerged as the winner. I figured, and I thought I was correct about this, that I was just basically out of a job, that I needed to look for alternatives. Then one thing led to another and Hammond, a fiscal conservative and in some ways a social conservative, but a very interesting guy intellectually who was very progressive on environmental issues, invited three Democrats to assume three of the most important spots in his administration. I guess I should say four Democrats, ultimately. It was me, Walt Parker, Commissioner of Transportation, who’s here; Avron Gross, who was the attorney general; and Byron Mallott. The three of us were 32 years old at the time. My journey here started when I was about 25 and by 32 they had three guys in the cabinet. I did that for about two and a half years.

At the end of those two and a half years, Jimmy Carter was elected president and he asked me to come back to Washington to be Assistant Secretary of Land and Water Resources, which was the job that had the task in the interior of implementing both the Pipeline Act and the Settlement Act from a federal perspective.

So they, I figured out, have three themes for my discussion today. One of them is that one -- timing is everything. I happened to be in the right place at the right time to see this 10-year snapshot, or more like 12- or 13-year snapshot, of these events in Alaska history and to participate in fairly close quarters. The other theme for my remarks is implementation. I noticed in talking about this session that some people intent on focusing on some of the details of the Settlement Act, implementation in this case. I’m going to take a slightly different approach. Instead of looking through the telescope from the big end and seeing something very small on the other end, I’m going to try to look at it from the other way to see a kind of bigger picture of what the implementation of the Settlement Act meant and what context it had with the rest of the events that were occurring. The final theme is very simple. It’s from a song by Billie Joel that some of you may have heard -- Shades of Gray. One of the lyrics in that song is, “Black and white is the way it should be, but shades of gray are all that I see.” That one wonderful line always comes back to me when I think about revisiting ANCSA. The more I find out, the less I know. The more I study the details, the more I look at all the various permutations and ways in which the Settlement Act was and is viewed, the less I can conclude about these issues.

I, of course, have opinions like everyone else, and you’ll hear today from a remarkable spectrum of people who viewed things in a variety of ways.

I give this self-introduction to give you a sense of where I stand. The theme that I’m going to suggest to you as students and people who have observed the land claims over the years is that, looking back and trying to understand it is to see the land claims in the context in which it occurred. It’s not merely a settlement act of land claims, although it certainly is that and deserves to be studied in terms of fairness and appropriateness and its ability to see into the future and its ability to do everything it could do to set up a system that works for the future of Alaska Natives, treating them fairly. You clearly have the obligation to study that.

I’m going to look at the subject in a broader way to see it in historical perspective. The way I look at it, and I recommend to you to at least do some of your intellectual cataloging in this way, is to think of the Settlement Act as part of this progression of acts that accounted for the land of Alaska. As a result, it also wound up accounting for a lot of the economic and social elements of Alaska life.

Obviously the first marker is the Statehood Act. We celebrate 1958, but it was actually signed into law in early 1959. I’m not going to go back and talk about it, but it was obviously a tremendous accomplishment for the state, hard won, and followed by a constitutional convention to set up a series of standards for implementation, Alaska got the right to 103 million acres of land, give or take, to select as an economic base. That’s out of 375 million acres. That’s the first marker.

Many things happened between the Statehood Act and Land Claims. The next major marker was the Federal Field Committee for Economic Planning in Alaska, which did a fantastic resource analysis and gathered a huge amount of cultural and social research that led to the ability to actually think about solving the land claims and dealing with land.

The next marker, obviously, was the Settlement Act itself in 1971. That provided, as you know, nearly $1 billion and 44 million acres of land and set-up a corporate structure for governments. It also divided the money that was given between direct appropriations and contributions from the state, which were based on the development of the oil in Alaska and the state being required to pay out of its revenue. They created an incentive for Alaska Natives to be in favor of the development of Prudhoe Bay and indeed they were.

I already told you how I intersected with this. That was followed by what I thought was the next marker, which was the Trans-Alaska Pipeline Act, the direct, logical, almost inevitable follow-up to the Settlement Act, because part of the execution of the Settlement Act depended on the ability to develop Prudhoe Bay and transport its oil. Much of the Native’s participation in Alaska’s future related to the Pipeline Act. This is important.

The last shoe to drop, at least up to this point, was the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act. By the time you got done with all of this, you had accounted for, the huge majority of Alaska land either for settlement of land claims, development and transportation of the North Slope energy resources, the ability of the state and its communities to select land to sustain themselves and expand and finally the protection of the resources of the state from the national interest standpoint.

I look at the Settlement Act as a part of that -- obviously affected by it, and obviously affecting the way that worked out. State land selections were going forward, but they had not been asserted at full volume until after the Alaska Native Settlement Act was enacted. The Settlement Act, to me, was very pivotal in all of that. When you go back and study it, it seems to me that you should keep in mind the way in which those four issues interacted with one another rather than thinking only from the perspective of a land claim and the precise details of how that land claim was settled, even though those are certainly very, very important.

The Settlement Act itself, and you’re going to hear this from other panelists, became an industry, clearly. I would hate to know how much money has been generated for consultants and lobbyists as a result of the Settlement Act, but it’s clear that with all the amendments, this has been a 30-year industry in terms of creating new issues and economic returns and policy decisions on resources and land and social life in Alaska.

When I was interviewed earlier, I made the comment that for me it’s very important to understand that most of the people who were working on the Settlement Act at the time certainly had a significant social consciousness and a significant sense of legal justice and legal awareness. Some others approached it differently and I’ll be glad to discuss those, but I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that there was a focus on the issue of crafting a cultural or social solution with respect to Alaska Natives. It was, at its heart, a legal and economic settlement of a set of aboriginal land claims. It was sort of directed by the people who put it together as just that, a legal settlement with obvious economic and financial elements. Even though individual people may have had motives, I think the collective motive was not to do a great deal of social engineering and cultural engineering, because frankly they weren’t capable of it. They did do some inadvertently. Some of the results were unintended, and not all together happy. I think there was a limited amount that could be done at the time and I think they did reasonably well doing it. Tom.

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